Distrust in Media Grows: What’s PR to Do?

by coach on October 1, 2010

Pew Research Center: Trust in media dropping

The facts are simple. The public simply doesn’t trust the media anymore. Two recent surveys by Gallup and Pew Research Center confirm this. PR needs to pay attention.

Gallup’s poll shows public distrust of mainstream media is at an all-time high of 57%. Further, 48% say the media are too liberal and 15% say they’re too conservative.

In the 2009 Pew Research Center report, the public showed their lowest opinion of the media’s accuracy and fairness in more than two decades. Just 29% said news media get their facts straight while 63% said news stories are often inaccurate. By comparison, in 1985, 55% said the news stories were accurate while only 34% said they were inaccurate.

That’s a big slide in trust!

Let’s explore why there’s such a growing lack of trust. I think it has to do with changes in media in the last three to five years alone. This includes the speed of news, competition for viewers, competing news channels, fewer resources expected to do more, the emergence of new social media channels and the merging of platforms or media channels.

What is called “news” today includes old and new media. It’s going to require more discriminating reading and understanding by the public.

It all makes for a challenging landscape for traditional media and a new media universe with too many choices for consumers both online and off-line. Old media simply can’t respond fast enough yet.

The rise of citizen journalism, blogging and new social media channels force old media to try and respond at the same speed. But they’re also hampered by a corresponding drop in experienced editorial oversight and simply trying to do so much more with fewer resources.

Credibility and trust in “media” will likely continue their downward slide. The good news is according to another Pew study Americans are spending even more time following the news than ever before though they are getting it more and more from internet sources.

So what are the implications for PR?

  • a need to work hard to get and maintain relationships with the most credible of traditional media
  • necessity to learn about, embrace and manage new media
  • the requirement to find and connect to true social media “influencers” vs the Ashton Kutchers and Justin Biebers of the online world
  • the challenge of working with new “news” entities with competing and very different needs and agendas
  • pressure to maintain and enhance your own organization’s credibility, integrity and reputation
  • the need to monitor all media closely
  • and the absolute necessity for quick response when, or if trouble arises.

Lack of trust in media is a growing issue for PR pros but these new media realities make it an exciting time for public relations. And that’s the great thing about being in PR these days if you’re up for the challenge!

I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts, so just shout out in the comments below.

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